Busy Little Beavers

That’s what Christina and I have been these last two days, in the true sense of being a beaver. We’ve been working down on the banks of Oak Creek, removing not only the fences I lost in last year’s flood but the all the trees damaged by roaring, rampaging water over the last ten years.

The banks of Oak Creek cluttered with trees and debris
Here’s the bank before we started

It’s a chore I’ve been wanting to do since I moved here. But until this year, I haven’t had time for such a heavy-lifting, time-consuming job. That didn’t stop me from gnashing my teeth every time my view of the creek was blocked by debris-cluttered, bent, overgrown alders.

It turns out all I had to do to force myself into this job was rent a tractor. It’s not that the tractor proved especially useful for the task. On the contrary, it hasn’t been. It was as if renting the tractor was a commitment to addressing difficult chores.

I didn’t jump into this pricey rental willy-nilly. I made a long list of chores I believed the tractor could help me complete in two weeks, which was as much tractor-time as I could afford. Included on that list was digging out cattails from the pond, digging up the garden, re-grading the area in front of the house where water from the road puddles, moving the little yellow chicken coop (which the pigs left half-dangling over the pond), cleaning the pathway along the wild hillside, and–starred on the list–removing the flood-tangled fencing from the creek bank.

Well, tonight marks the end of the tractor’s first week here and I’m a little disappointed. First, I took it to the front of the house, thinking to work on the drainage issue. But the Kubota’s bucket has no teeth, so it doesn’t scrape well. After playing with the backhoe for a while, I realized I was wasting expensive time and set aside that task as better fitted for a hired bobcat. So I started toward the wild hillside, only to stop while I still had room to maneuver the tractor as I eyed the gate to the hillside. What if the tractor proved too wide? The last thing I needed this expensive machine tumbling off the path and down the hill. With the width of the machine in mind, I once again walked the path. Yes indeed, that path was too narrow in several spots. Once again, I set that task aside for a hired bobcat.

Down I drove to the pond in the front pasture where I instantly perceived that I had made yet another spatial problem.  The backhoe arm was too short to reach all the cattails from the pond bank. Although I let the water dry up months ago, the pond bottom remains wet and very gooey. The chances were good that driving the tractor into it would result in a sticky situation, literally. So I removed as many cattails as I could reach, then checked the rest of the task as yet another one for a hired bobcat. However, the tractor easily pulled the little yellow coop back on solid ground. At last! One task on the list complete!

After that, I moved into the garden and started digging up bermuda grass. OMG! The dirt I’m turning up is a beautiful deep dark brown! My imagination went wild as I worked, filling the turned ground with raspberries and crabapples, comfrey and chamomile. But as I worked, my gaze kept slipping to the creek and those awful clumps of tangled orange fencing.  When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I drove the tractor down to creek level…only to discover that since the bucket doesn’t have teeth, it’s hard to fasten straps to it.  Still, by Saturday afternoon I’d pulled the fencing out of the seemingly never-ending tangle of saplings, flood debris, broken trees and all the other detritus that has been an eyesore for so long.

And that’s when Christina joined me. We stood together, staring silently at the bank for a few moments. Then she said, “I’m really good with a chain saw. We could clean this up.”

Not even that rich dark earth in the garden or the cost of a rented tractor could keep me from replying, “Deal!”

So for the last two days she and I have been busy little beavers, moving up and down the bank, me with my hand tools cutting down the saplings and reeds, and making piles of debris, while she plied her chain saw, dropping full-grown trees and carving off chunks of dead tree trunks. It’s appropriate that in the debris we came across a twelve-foot-long log that real beavers had taken. Even though it was old and dry, their teeth marks were still visible.

the banks of Oak Creek de-cluttered
Two days of work have made a huge difference

I don’t care that this cost me two days of tractor use. If renting a tractor is what it took to get this job done, then it was worth every penny. The satisfaction of being able to sit on the bank of the creek, my boots dangling in the water, is truly priceless.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back in the garden, digging again. I need holes for the ten crabapple trees I bought. There are still a couple of tasks left on my list that I know the tractor can do before it’s time for it to go home. I’ll wave good-bye to it without any regrets. I now know that it’s not a tractor I need, it’s a bobcat! Yep, that or a skidsteer. And a wood chipper. We took out years worth of brush, branches and trees. That’s enough to cover this property an inch deep in mulch. Just imagine how rich my soil is going to be after that!

 

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